Two days after extending former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s detention under PSA by another three months till mid-June, the Jammu and Kashmir administration Friday revoked the order and set him free.
Abdullah, the three-time former CM, National Conference president and Member of Parliament from Srinagar, has been set free after 221 days. He was under preventive detention first, and charged under the Public Safety Act in September. His detention was last extended on March 11 for three months.
Just after Friday prayers, wearing a black pheran and his signature karakul hat, Abdullah stepped on to the roof of the garage at his Gupkar Road residence and said, “I’m free, I’m free.” The 83-year old leader had been facing health issues for a while. He had undergone two eye surgeries for cataract in the last 45 days and has also had check-ups for his heart, liver and knees.
Flanked by his wife and daughter, Abdullah said, “This freedom is not complete. This freedom will be complete when all leaders — Omar, Mehbooba ji, and all leaders, in prisons either in the state or outside the state or in MLA Hostel or in various buildings where they have been put under house arrest — I hope the Government of India will take action soon to release everyone if they want the people of this state to live as free people.”
My father is a free man again.
— Safia Abdullah Khan (@safiakhan71) March 13, 2020
His daughter Safia Abdullah Khan was the first to react on Abdullah’s release. “My father is a free man again,” she wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, the administration’s order said: “The government hereby directs that Dr Farooq Abdullah, s/o late Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, R/O Gupkar Road Srinagar, be detained for a further period of three months.” Abdullah was shown the order extending his detention on Thursday, post which, government sources said, he was told he could be released if he refrained from making political comments upon his release.
On Friday, this order, along with Abdullah’s detention under PSA was revoked “with immediate effect” by the Home Department of the J&K administration. The sources said while health concerns were a key factor in doing away with the detention, his release also pointed to the Centre’s larger outreach plan “for expanding political engagement in the Valley, a part of which was the setting up a new political party in Kashmir.”
Abdullah expressed his gratitude to everyone who spoke for his release. “We tried for so many months, to see this gate open. Today I don’t have words, the way I feel today, I’m free,” he said.
According to the order extending his detention in December, the former CM was being held under PSA “with a view to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
After the initial 12 day custody at home, the state administration extended his detention for three months until December 15. And a second extension was granted December, allowing for Abdullah to be held until March 15. The maximum period for which such detention could be extended is two years.
Less than 200 meters down the same road, his son and National Conference Vice-President Omar Abdullah continued to remain under detention. And in another part of Srinagar, former chief minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti remains incarcerated.
The National Conference welcomed the release and termed the move “a step in the right direction for restoration of genuine political process in Jammu and Kashmir”. J&K People’s Conference General Secretary Imran Ansari also welcomed the decision and demanded the release of People’s Conference Chairman Sajad Lone. “He is under strict house arrest after being in detention at MLA Hostel for six months. We also demand release of our workers who are detained under PSA”, he said.
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